3.2 Audiences

Cartoon icon showing three people with facial features and different skin tones/hair colours.

‘Audience segmentation’ can be a useful tool for planning public engagement; it involves grouping people based on shared characteristics. If you have particular groups of people in mind, this helps you to work out things like where to advertise what you’re doing, suitable venues (online or in person) which are familiar to those people, or times and days of the week which work best for them. In Section 4 of this course we’ll think further about how knowing your audience can help you to plan your public engagement activities.


Some questions you might ask yourself to help with defining your target audience are:

  • What are their demographic characteristics (this refers to things like age, ethnicity and gender)?
  • What are they interested in?
  • How do they usually spend their time?
  • What issues concern them?
  • Where do they live?
  • Do they have a connection to a particular place (for example, it is somewhere they visit for work or leisure, or they have a family link there) even if they don’t actually live there?


Possible definitions of audiences based on some of the questions suggested above might look A group of people stand around the edge of a table listening to a speaker who is out of view. On the table are several sets of headphones and various objects including large glass containers and test tubessomething like these:

  • ‘adults who enjoy watching stand-up comedy‘;
  • ’18-25 year-olds who identify as LGBTQ+’;
  • ‘care home residents’;
  • ‘families who live in or near to the village of Lanchester and have pre-school children’;
  • ‘teenagers who play Minecraft’;
  • ‘visually impaired adults’;
  • ‘teachers and support staff who work with 7-11 year-olds’;
  • ‘members of local history societies in Staffordshire’.


Of course any such definitions need not be exclusive: your project might appeal to more than one group of people, and it may turn out to be of interest to some who may not share the interests or characteristics you first thought of. In future it may also develop in ways that enable you to think about reaching different audiences.

The Being Human festival team, who organise the UK’s only national festival sharing humanities research with wider publics, have prepared this helpful toolkit which has some more advice on connecting with your intended audience.